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Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar Joshua Busby is author of “Feeding Insecurity? Poverty, Weak States, and Climate Change” in the book Confronting Poverty: Weak States and U.S. National Security. In this chapter, Busby examines the societal and economic impacts of climate change. Because studies indicate that climate change will have “a disproportionate effect on poor countries with weak governance,” Busby argues that the countries with the greatest need for help in dealing with environmental challenges are the same ones whose widespread poverty and weak systems of government will hinder efforts to mitigate the damaging effects of climate change. In addition to his discussion on the connection between poverty and weak state capacity, Busby argues that policymakers in the developed world should address poverty alleviation as an element of national security.

Busby outlines several reasons for “securitizing” climate change but also notes that there are risks associated with viewing climate change as a security issue. In his analysis, he examines the connection between conflict and climate change, disasters and climate change, and environmental protection under insecurity. He then provides case studies on the effects of disasters in Haiti and the challenges of protecting natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a history of political instability, violence, and poverty.

Busby ends the chapter with a look at the policy implications of the security-climate change link. Because of the valid connection between climate change and conflict, Busby maintains that employing strategies to reduce the risk associated with disasters and investing in adaptation will mitigate violence. The challenge with this, however, is the lack of international funding for such measures. Busby concludes that focusing on research, adaptation, and capacity building will contribute to alleviating the negative impacts of climate change in the developing world and could potentially result in the breakout of fewer violent conflicts.